by Martin MacGregor (@MartMacG) The vast majority of brands don’t have big media budgets. That doesn’t mean they can’t make a big impact.

Anita Roddick, founder of cosmetics, skin care and perfume company, The Body Shop, once said: “If you think you are too small to make an impact, try going to bed with a mosquito.”

Biggest frustation

The biggest frustration I have watching and working with brands is how so much of what they do seems bitty, splintered, diluted and, a lot of the time, wasted. In a word, unimpactful. What makes it worse is that I know that most of these brands have limited resources and should be thinking a lot harder about how that resource is invested.

There is really only one question a brand team should ask: Is the communication going to make an impact?

What is meant by “impact”? Its definition is simple: “Have a strong effect on something or someone.” If a brand’s communications is not having a “strong effect”, then what’s the point?

Unfortunate assumption

The unfortunate assumption is that impact is expensive. Last year, when Absa rebranded, it plastered the message on every available touchpoint with a media spend that must have run into hundreds of millions. Yes, it was impactful but, essentially, it was using a blunt media strategy for a very blunt message.

There are much smarter ways of being impactful.

  • Identify the core: Know who your core audience is and focus where it is. Don’t waste activity across unnecessarily wide target audiences.
  • Pick one touchpoint: It’s tempting to spread the message across touchpoints. Find one where you know your core audience is and invest properly. Weak campaigns end up in a string of dead-end touchpoints.
  • Pick a time: Take advantage of habitual behaviour, and find a time of the day/ week/ month to be in consistently.
  • Socially accelerate: The force of media equals the mass of media times its social acceleration. If the idea isn’t strong enough to be shared, then don’t do it.

Perfect illustration

There was a great Cannes Media winning entry last year which illustrates this perfectly. It was for a new David Bowie exhibition in New York and, instead of advertising across city radio, newspaper and outdoor sites, it took over one subway station and showcased the artwork in a host of interesting and interactive ways. It reached its core audience, at a touchpoint where most of audience members were, at a time when they were commuting with a message that created a massive social conversation.

Behaving like a mosquito might appear annoying but to think how small that mosquito is, and the impact it has on such a large body, points to exactly the kind of behaviour brands should follow.


Martin MacGregorMartin MacGregor (@MartMacG) is managing director of Connect, an M&C Saatchi Company, with offices in Johannesburg and Cape Town. Martin has spent 18 years in the industry, and has previously worked at Ogilvy and was MD of MEC Nota Bene in Cape Town. He contributes the monthly “Media Redefined” column, in which he challenges norms in the media space, to

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